A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the re:loom offices and workshop in Decatur, Georgia. Lisa Wise is the inspirational, hard working woman at the helm who started first with a mission to create affordable housing in 1990 for those in need. The weaving of beautiful, one of a kind rugs came much later...
After helping to break the cycle of poverty by providing housing, Lisa realized she needed to create employment opportunities too. She knew the best thing to do was to teach a skill, like weaving, and after years of searching for funding, she got it. The grant she received from Health and Human Services was used to pay salaries and offer full health benefits. The Chattahoochee Handweaver's Guild provided the teachers. And the fabric to weave? It was, and still is, 100% donated.
Lisa showed me how they make the balls of fabric to be used on the looms. For items such as shirts, the collars and sleeves are taken off, then the reamaining fabric is folded into a square and cut in a long, vertical pattern, creating 1/2" strands or so. When stretched out, this becomes one long piece of fabric that is then rolled up into a ball. Depending on the color and pattern of the shirt, or sheet, or tablecloth (whatever has been donated) determines the look and number of the fabric wraps.
At the re:loom workshop, there are hundreds and hundreds of various sized fabrics cut and ready to be placed on a loom. The weaver determines the look of each item to be made based on how many of the same balls of fabric they have to work with. If they like one ball of fabric a lot but there is only one, maybe that one becomes an accent color. It's all up to the weaver to design a piece of their own choosing and as Lisa shared, "they all end up having their own signature style."
There are currently ten weavers employed at Lisa's Weave House. They are either homeless or at risk, three of which are refugees from Bhutan. Those that have already learned the craft of weaving, teach the others, and together they continually produce truly beautiful rugs, bags, placemats, table runners and more.
I found Fred at the largest loom. He likes the challenge of creating a large sized rug and is an incredibly hard and talented worker. His mom was a drug addict and he came to Lisa as a kid who needed a purpose, a direction. He found it here. As stated on their site, "With a stable salary, 100% healthcare coverage, and opportunities to engage in the operation of the weavehouse, employees gain a financial foundation, leadership skills and a sense of purpose and accomplishment."
Leila has become a pro at weaving with plastic bags. I couldn't believe how cool her (waterproof) rug was, which would work great outside or in a bathroom.
Lisa continues the good work everyday. As she shared, "I get up every day to make a difference in a person's life." If you live in Atlanta you can find re:loom at Atlanta Made, Wild Oats & Billy Goats and Belly. Or just peruse the shop online. I'm so happy to have met Lisa and the fabulous weavers at the weave house. They weave their stories every day- crafting gorgeous, unique pieces to be proud of, to build upon...
Photos: Sweet Peach, endsinstyle.tumblr.com, southernfinds.worpress.com, Content: Sweet Peach